Artist Molly Allis Focuses on Accessibility and Joy in Her Process

August 8, 2018 8:47 AM
by Ryan Lutz

Out of the Blue artist Molly Allis is creating a new work, titled “The Storytelling Machine, onsite at the Beach House this July/August 2018The kinetic sculpture consists of a series of dioramas with participatory elements, allowing youth and adults alike to bring the story of a “Great Day” to life. Allis features many recycled and previously-discarded materials in the work, demonstrating that you don't have to spend money or generate waste to be creative.  

The completed sculpture will be accessible throughout the rest of summer in the Games Room at the Beach House. The Games Room is free to enter and is located on the second floor of the Pool House, overlooking the pool. RSVP to the Aug 11 unveiling. More info at

We sat down with Allis to find out more about her project and her use of humble materials:

Question: Talk to us about your journey as an artist.  

Molly Allis: I've always gravitated toward art. I did a lot of cartooning and illustrating stories as a kid, an interest I get from my dad, who is a writer and visual artist. I ended up applying to college at NYU Theater for directing and design. That's where I explored a lot of the immersive and environmental side of set design and was drawn to creating the kinds of environments that can transport people. On the side, I also spent a lot of time getting into puppetry with the Bread and Puppet theater in Vermont. As a collective they work a lot with recycled materials and cardboard. They even have a Cheap Art Manifesto, and they were a huge influence on me and my work.  

The idea that you can make powerful art with cheap materials or things other people throw away was really empowering for me as an artist, and it was also anti-elitist which was a huge draw. After NYU I joined a bunch of bands and played guitar and sang. Then one day I just started making a bunch of little dioramas, and my band mate saw it and wanted us to make a music video using them. So we made a stop motion animation music video that screened at film festivals and opened up the world of animation for me. That led me to get my Masters at Cal Arts. While there I began working at this place called the Rediscover Center [in Culver City - ed] which helps kids use power tools to make works of art out of recycled materials. Working there helped me learn how to make things immersive and kinetic, and that kind of lead me here to my current project. That was a long answer, but it's all connected. I just can’t seem to put my art in a box, even though this current project is very much in a box (laughs).  

Q: What do you like about using discarded objects in your work? 

MA:  It started with the Bread and Puppet philosophy. They are very DIY and very radical, and I really loved that they didn’t let lack of money or other challenges get in the way of making and sharing art with people. I think it’s really important that the practice of art and the sharing of that art is accessible to everyone. I really believe that it doesn’t serve art or people for art to be this exclusive or alienating thing. I don't think that's the point of art at all. I've also always been drawn to finding an object and using it for something it wasn’t intended for. For me it's always been exciting to take a material that people are used to seeing and make something that is different and new to them. I also just love working with cardboard because it's so abundant, especially in the age of Amazon, and it allows you to not be precious and keep reusing materials.   

Q: Has it been different for you making something that is specific to the Beach House? 

MA: Right now I'm making a community-based, interactive public art piece that is geared toward a diverse audience of both kids and adults. The community aspect really spoke to me because I enjoy making things that are for all ages. This project will be unveiled here at the Beach House on August 11th and I'm excited about it being in a public space. As an interdisciplinary artist , I'm always thinking about site-specificity, so that hasn’t been too different from what I normally do. Although I do expect to make repairs, which is why I have made part of it out of wood, because I want kids to be able to play and interact with the finished product. I'm also trying to take advantage of all this natural light and adding skylights to the dioramas. It's always a good challenge to solve around the parameters of a site, and it's funny because it's the first time I'm considering the longevity of my art.  

Q: What can audiences expect to see and what would you like them to come away with? 

MA:  It's my hope that children and adults will be able to enter into a playful and joyful space and experience the magic of being able to look at miniature worlds. For me I find them to be intriguing and transporting; I think the scale of this project makes all these little worlds unexpected. That's why I want it to be seen as something for everyone, especially when they are able to manipulate certain aspects of the scenes. Most of all, I hope there is a sense of wonder and focus on representation in this children's story that shows a diverse body of people.  Beyond that I don't want to dictate the experience too much.  

Out of the Blue 

The Out of the Blue series invites artists to the Beach House to make projects relating to the sights, sounds and people onsite. In these experiences of art as a social practice, Beach House guests come across planned and chance encounters with artistic creation. Out of the Blue is part of the Beach=Culture series of art and culture activities at the Beach House, presented by Santa Monica Cultural Affairs. 

Artist Biography 

Molly Allis is an interdisciplinary artist and musician based in Los Angeles. She designs and constructs immersive environments with primarily recycled materials that encourage audience participation and improvisation within a narrative. Her award-winning animations have screened in festivals internationally, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Madrid Experimental Film Festival, and the Linoleum Festival in Moscow. Molly received her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Theater Directing/Design, and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Integrated Media and Experimental Sound Practices.  

About Beach=Culture at the Annenberg Community Beach House

The Beach=Culture series of artist residencies, exhibits, talks, concerts and art projects at the Beach House began in 2009 with the opening of the facility. Since then, 25 artists-in-residence, 24 gallery exhibitions, and over 400 individual events have brought a diversity of cultural experiences to this iconic beachside location; the only public Beach Club in America. For a list of current Beach=Culture events, visit, and for general information about the facility, The Beach House is a facility of the City of Santa Monica. 

@Annenbergbeachhouse @SMBeachHouse #ArtSaMo 

Authored By

Ryan Lutz
Administrative Intern